SAO PAULO – With music as the common language, Brazil’s Orquestra Mundana Refugi – comprised of local and immigrant musicians from around the world – celebrates cultural diversity with a repertoire that seeks to raise awareness about immigration and coexistence among peoples.
Composer and conductor Carlinhos Antunes heads the group of 19 musicians hailing from parts of the world as diverse as Iran, Syria, Palestine, Guinea, France and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as from different parts of Brazil.
“Everybody can sing in their own language and languages not their own,” Antunes told EFE. “The Congolese, for example, sing in Portuguese and Swahili, and the Iranians do it in Spanish and Portuguese.”
Many in the ensemble have heart-wrenching stories to tell, having fled their native lands in pursuit of their dreams – or simply to try to survive.
To many of them, the orchestra is a precious “haven” from their homelands’ lack of freedom of expression.
Mah Mooni, for example, said she was “born again” when she met Antunes.
“Women in Iran cannot sing in public by themselves (...), I have always wanted to become a singer,” said the Iranian artist, who despite having lost a leg in a bus accident, came to Brazil to pursue her dream of becoming a singer.
Mooni meets with her bandmates in a Sao Paulo studio to rehearse the last few songs before the concert scheduled for Sunday where, among other numbers, they were set to perform original pieces, as well as “As Caravanas,” composed and provided to the group by Brazilian composer Chico Buarque.
The concert – originally set for Friday – had to be rescheduled due to cases of yellow fever reported in the area.